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What to look for when choosing a sewing machine

Deciding on a new sewing machine is always exciting, but sometimes daunting – it’s hard to choose when there are so many models and features on offer and finding one that caters to your type of sewing can be tough. To help you find the sewing machine of your dreams, this guide details the different machine types, models and features that suit certain sewing tasks, ensuring you get the best machine, tailored to your specific needs.


Before we learn about the different types of machine available, think about what kind of sewing you want to do. A basic model for quick and easy alterations, a feature-packed quilting machine, a professional overlocker – whatever you love to sew, have this in mind as you decide: it’ll make choosing your machine a doddle!

 

Mechanical

Mechanical sewing machines feature basic functions and a limited number of stitch options but are perfect for outright beginners and users who just want to sew simple. Prices start from under £100 for entry-level models for alterations and repairs, to around £200 for more advanced models including extra stitch options, a needle threader and a one-step automatic buttonhole maker.

Stitch selection and settings are set manually via dials and these machines require the use of a foot pedal to operate the machine while sewing.

Mechanical sewing machine features:

  • LED light for improved view when sewing
  • Free arm for a larger sewing area
  • Top-loading or quick-set bobbin for easy bobbin replacement

Brother's mechanical sewing machines:

 

Computerised

Computerised sewing machines have lots of time-saving automatic features designed to make sewing easier for beginner and expert alike.
Machines of this type offer a huge variety of stitches and let you precisely and simply control stitch length and width. Some models even allow you to design your own stitches and memorise stitch combinations for further use.

Features such as slide speed control, which allows you to precisely control the machine’s sewing speed from fast to slow, and a start-stop button, which lets you control the machine without the need for a foot pedal, are designed to you give greater control and confidence while sewing.

Computerised sewing machine features:

  •  Start/Stop button and slide speed control
  •  Precise digital stitch width and lenght controls
  •  Decorative stitches for fast creativity

 

Brother's computerised sewing machines:

If you plan to use a sewing machine for basic repairs and alternations, like taking up hems or repairing pockets, a basic mechanical sewing machine is ideal. These affordable models are lightweight, easy to store and handle a variety of straightforward jobs with ease. 

Got a passion for fashion? Consider machines that offer a good variety of stitches to let you add that extra decorative detail, and a speed control to help you precisely control the swiftness of your stitching – great for tricky, curved areas where accuracy is key.

A one-step automatic buttonhole feature is ideal for adding holes easily and precisely, whatever the button size, and look out for machines with a lock stitch button. This will secure your stitching at the start and end, stopping seam stitching from unravelling. 

An auto thread cutter is another handy gadget that cuts your top and bottom thread for you at the end of your sewing, saving time and plenty of thread. An LED light will give you a bright view over your project, showing you true fabric colours while still being easy on the eyes.

 

As you become more advanced, look at machines with larger work spaces, such as the Innov-is 1100 with its 8.3-inch arm – perfect for larger projects such as coats – and the 11 ¼ long arm Innov-is VQ2, designed to take your fashion to new heights with over 400 stitches and high-speed sewing. Its full-colour touchscreen gives you creative control over every aspect of your stitching too.

 

Combined sewing and embroidery models, on the other hand, offer you the option to embellish all kinds of clothes with beautiful designs, letting you make your wardrobe truly unique!
 

While most sewing machines can easily cope with quilting, the greater the sewing area, the more straightforward the sewing! The extra workspace of the Innov-is VQ2, for instance, makes sewing larger quilts a doddle, leaving you to enjoy simply being creative.

Drop feed is essential if you want to quilt using free-motion embroidery, whether you want to stipple or create unique designs. Machines with pivot function, such as the Innov-is 1800Q and the VQ2, allow you to turn corners and rotate fabric easily too. When you stop sewing, the needle stays in the fabric and the foot lifts, so you can quickly turn and continue sewing – ideal for quilting and applique.

A quick-set drop-in bobbin allows you to see when a bobbin is nearly empty, so you can quickly replace it in a matter of seconds – no more running out of thread halfway through or messing around with bobbin cases under the machine. The VQ2 even has its own separate bobbin winder, so there’s no need to wait for the bobbin to fill up. 
If you’re traveling to classes, look for portable machines that are easy to take with you like the lightweight and robust Innov-is A Series machines, designed for both home use and travel.

Take note of the accessories that come included with the machine. Some may have a quilt kit included as part of a special offer or simply include quilting accessories as standard, but it’s worth noting that a walking foot, ¼” foot and wide table really are essential for quilters!

 Innov-is 1100
 Innov-is 1300
 Innov-is 1800Q
 Innov-is VQ2

Made for helping you craft perfect décor, home furnishing-focused sewing machines need to be able to handle the weight of furnishing fabrics. The A Series range has a stronger feed system and is ideal for beginners who would like a standard-sized machine that packs a punch. If you’re looking for more space for larger projects, then the Innov-is F420 brings you up a size, and up again with the Innov-is 1100 or Innov-is 1300. 

The option to sew without the foot pedal can be very useful when creating home furnishings, especially when sewing long lengths of curtain fabric, and machines with decorative stitches and lettering are great for adding personal finishes to cushions or gifts.

Want to go further with those decorative finishing touches? Consider a combination sewing and embroidery machine to add larger decorative embroidery to your projects. 

 Innov-is A16
 Innov-is A50
 Innov-is A80
 Innov-is A150
 Innov-is 1100
 Innov-is 1300

If you want to push your dressmaking further, then it’s time to consider an overlocker and/or coversitch machine to achieve the ultimate professional finish.

An overlocker will trim away your raw edges and leave you with beautifully neat seams, and stitches will stretch with the fabric. No more popping seams on jersey fabric!

Look out for overlockers that have a lower looper threader to make rethreading a breeze, and a free arm that will make easy work of sleeves or trouser legs – a must-have on your overlocker checklist. Also consider machines where you have options of stitch types, such as three or four-thread and rolled hem options.

Coverstitch machines are for so much more than turning up hems on T-shirts – with them, you can create lapped seams on thick fabric, cover seams on reversable garments, or use the chain stitch option to create temporary seams. Like overlockers, the stitches will stretch with the fabric, but won’t cut it for you.

There are plenty of accessories available for coverstitch machines, including a belt looper, binding attachment and hem guide, so check these out when choosing your machine.
If you’re new to either overlock or coverstitch machines, always ask to see inside the model before you buy so you can understand how they are threaded, and always make sure to follow the machine instructions.

 

Overlock

Coverstitch

If you are unsure which machine you’d like, please speak to one of our experts, and bear in mind it really is essential to try before you buy to make sure you get a machine that’s right for you. 

If you’re lucky enough to have a sewing machine retailer nearby, we recommend dropping in for a demonstration, advice and an opportunity to ask any questions you might have while enjoying a test drive. 

Learn more about buying from Brother and find the sewing machine of your dreams today!

 

For normal home use, Brother machines have a 3-year warranty. Machines used for business come with a 1-year warranty. 

If you intend to use a home sewing machine for business purposes, consider that basic, entry-level machines for home use are not designed for heavy, commercial tasks and may not have the durability you need. 

You may find it useful to speak to your local sewing machine retailer to find a Brother machine to suit your business. Find out more about our warranties.